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April 19, 2008
A pair of Australians, in what was more KFC Twenty20 action than IPL, treated a buzzing Mohali crowd to a run-filled Saturday clash as the bandwagon moved north. Unfortunately for Kings XI Punjab, James Hopes' 32-ball 71 couldn't overhaul a massive total of 240, while the Chennai Super Kings had their Western Australia specialist Michael Hussey to thank for a massive total. His scintillating unbeaten 116, another superb exhibition for this juiced-up format, left Punjab a mountain to climb and with Yuvraj Singh dethroned early they could muster only 207 for 4.
"We'll just have to put runs on the board and pressure on Yuvraj," was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's reason for batting first on what looked a dry pitch and 20 overs later his team had reason to feel confident. Walking in at No. 3 after Brett Lee's pace and bounce accounted for Parthiv Patel, Hussey looked on as Matthew Hayden's cameo came to end. Then Dhoni, the most expensive player in the IPL, flopped for 1, though replays suggested an inside-edge on to pad. But Hussey, preferred to Stephen Fleming today, was immediately dancing down to hit Lee through extra cover and past midwicket.
His cool head and ability to put away the average deliveries kept runs ticking over on a speedy outfield and his handling of the slow bowlers was superb. Piyush Chawla wasn't allowed to settle, his first ball sailing over mid-on for six, and Suresh Raina took a cue with a pull over the boundary and a lovely straight-driven four. The Hussey-Raina stand, a blend of soft-handed pushes and some crowd-pleasing pulls, yielded 66 in five overs. Raina's 32 from 13 balls was a powerful effort before he fell attempting a fourth six.
Hussey, however, wasn't flustered by the loss of wickets. Hopes was hit for a straight six, Wilkin Mota's military medium was clubbed over mid-on, and Hussey celebrated a drop by Sreesanth with ten in two balls. Irfan Pathan took his second wicket by yorking Jacob Oram - a dismissal which was celebrated with a raucous din - but Hussey motored on with effortless biffs down the ground. His seventh six, again lofted straight, took him into the 90s and two balls later the landmark was duly reached with a single off Lee. It took just 50 balls. Hussey celebrated with two more sixes and, with some help from a gung-ho S Badrinath, Chennai took 25 off the final over.
Hopes took to Punjab's daunting target with steely-eyed gusto, adding 56 in 5.5 overs with Karan Goel. He was quick to latch on to anything fractionally short, the pick being flat sixes over backward point and deep square leg off Manpreet Gony. Hopes raised a 24-ball half-century, the fastest of the tournament, to keep Punjab near the asking rate. Dropped by P Amarnath off his own bowling, Hopes hammered Joginder Sharma for powerful boundaries and with Kumar Sangakarra sensibly farming the strike, he even slogged Muttiah Muralitharan for six. But Amarnath had his revenge when long-off held an easy catch and with that, ultimately, went Punjab's hopes.
The run-rate was more than 13 when Yuvraj joined Sangakkara, and two scorching sixes were followed by a tame hit down long-on's throat. Sangakkara swung the bat around during a feisty 54, meshing paddles and pulls with aplomb, but fell to Murali in the 18th over as the chase was snubbed.
The tournament opener in Bangalore began and ended with Brendon McCullum's blitzkrieg, but Hussey proved there was plenty of oomph to go around with a spectacular hundred. His brother David, who famously ribbed him for fetching a higher price, made just 12 in the first match and you can imagine his sibling sending him a text message after this stunning effort. The IPL is certainly abuzz.
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